No. 2 Bruins Sweep the Cardinal at Home
May 13, 2021
What's better than a weekend of UCLA Softball at the Bruins house in Easton Stadium, capping a four-game sweep over Stanford University on Sunday, highlighted by Senior Day and Mother's Day celebrations among the players, parents and families in attendance?
"It's just been amazing with the support that my family has given me, and especially on Mother's Day," said Bruin pitcher Rachel Garcia, who was interviewed by PAC-12 Network announcers, Natasha Watley and Brian Webber. Garcia had just won her third complete game of the weekend against the Cardinal batters.
"I was already emotional today when I woke up, so the first thing I did was to call my Mom and talk to her. But, just to have my family here means so much, especially on Senior Day. Unfortunately, I couldn't have everybody I wanted but was able to get in everyone I could through this entire weekend."
Premier shortstop and hitting leader Bri Perez was delighted the team played with actual fans in attendance after playing much of the season without spectators. "It feels good, especially at home," said Perez. "Looking up and seeing our family in the stands, it just means so much to us. The Eight Clap, we hear it all. We're so appreciative of them. Everyone at UCLA who's done everything to make it happen. It's good. It feels good."
The Bruins pitching and defense allowed only one run in the series versus Stanford, improving their 2021 PAC-12 record to 16-2 and their overall season record to 38-3. The NCAA defending National Champions wrap their Conference schedule with a crucial weekend series against Wildcats in Tucson, Arizona with the focus on capturing their second consecutive PAC-12 title. UCLA has won 10 Conference Championships since 1987 and 13 NCAA titles starting in 1982.
UCLA has lost two less games than the second place Washington Huskies, who shared the PAC-12 title with the Bruins in 2019. Among the scenarios, a combination of three Bruin wins over third place Arizona (12-7) and or losses by Washington at Stanford this weekend will clinch it for the nation's second-ranked team. The Oklahoma Sooners is currently the top-ranked team in the country with 42-2 overall record, having suffered their second defeat over the weekend to Oklahoma State.
The tone was set in Friday night's series opener with Stanford. It was a tight two-run contest until designated player Aaliyah Jordan homered in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving insurance for Garcia's 3-hit, 4-0, shutout performance. "Coach Lisa's been working with me all this week to hitting the outside pitch. I saw it there and just drove it," said Jordan.
"We really just have to take it one game at a time. We're trying not to think too far ahead, just trying to stay present and do what we can and focus on one pitch at a time. I feel that today was one of the best days we've had this season. Just starting new, starting fresh and everything is brand new to us. Just trying to play our own game."
UCLA kept their foot on the accelerator for Saturday's May 8th doubleheader. Pitcher Megan Faraimo earned her team-high 16th victory of the season during the first game, as the Bruins won 9-0. Faraimo allowed only one base runner, a double in the first inning, reducing her season ERA to 1.39 in the process. The game came to a sudden end when catcher Delanie Wisz crushed her ninth homer of season, a two-run shot in the bottom of the fifth. Because of the mercy rule (nine run lead after five innings) the game ended in the fifth inning instead of the seventh.
Perez' team-leading 11th homerun, a two-run blast in the third inning opened the game up. Perez also leads the team with 44 runs scored and 36 RBI's. "I was just trying to get a good pitch to drive on. Obviously, they had been throwing me outside and I finally got something a little more in, so I just took that with me," said Perez.
Though Stanford threatened multiple times, they took their only lead of the series and scored their only run in the 3-1 nightcap loss on Saturday. And it was the result of a two-out bases loaded hit-by-pitch in the second inning. Garcia faced only five batters over the minimum, allowing only three hits and two hit-batters for her 11th win of the season.
Garcia's bat was also the difference as her two-out single allowed pinch runner Grace Guzman to tie the score in the third inning. Garcia hit a first-pitch opposite field two-run homer in the fifth inning to grab the permanent lead. She leads the team with a .778 slugging percentage and her .383 batting average is one-point behind team leader and "Golden Glove" left fielder Kelli Godin.
Garcia gave props to her teammates and coaches for her success. "Having the defense that I do have and the energy that we have in the dugout, it pumps me up. So, they give me the confidence to go as long as I can. Just the support from the pitching staff, from the coaches, gives me confidence in everything.
"Just being able to represent these four letters has been an honor. When I first stepped foot on this campus I was just in awe and I knew this was the place for me, having Coach Lisa, Coach I, Kirk O. and Coach Don here. I've been so blessed to have them in my life and to give me the opportunity to get my degree from the number one public university."
Aaliyah Jordan expressed her teammates' sentiments about Garcia's career at UCLA. "Being with her for the past five years and seeing how hard she works, going through the injuries and everything else she's going through right now. It's amazing just to be her teammate and just to say I've been able to play with her."
Garcia's fourth complete game shutout of the season on Senior Day and Mother's Day Sunday was supported by Wisz' three hits, including a double and her 10th homerun of the season. Wisz is tied with Kinsley Washington with a team-leading 10 doubles, is second with 33 RBI's and second in homers. Popular senior Genavee Peres pinch hit single to lead off the fourth inning exemplified the team's bench strength and camaraderie.
Bri Perez was asked what the Bruin seniors mean to her. "Oh man, the seniors. A few of them were in my class from the start. Though they're leaving me this year, I can't explain how much they mean to me. Literally love them so much. They have given their all to this program. They've given so much. And even though they don't get a lot of outcomes sometimes, they just give and give and give. I can't give enough credit to them. I just love them so much."